Tim Brunson DCH

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The root and development of otorhinolaryngology in traditional Chinese medicine

There is an increasing trend in society to look beyond conventional medicine to find answers to problems in health. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is one of the most popular alternative, complementary therapies worldwide. It is becoming a popular alternative in otorhinolaryngology where its use in the treatment of sinusitis, tinnitus, deafness and Meniere's disease is growing. Despite the general awareness of TCM, the literature relating specifically to otorhinolaryngology is relatively scarce. In this review, we have traced the origin and development of otorhinolaryngology with respect to TCM and have provided a few interesting insights into otorhinolaryngology, as it used to be practised. Archaeological sources have shown that diseases affecting the ear, nose and throat were of medical concern as early as the 18th century BC. The first practising otorhinolaryngologist can be traced back to the 5th century BC. Acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal therapy and massage were amongst his treatments. Otorhinolaryngology was recognised as a major specialty when formal medical education began in the 7th century AD. Therapeutic measures since then expanded to include exercise, food therapy and surgery. References to using oesophageal speech as a substitute voice generator, the use of copper wire to excise nasal polyps, procedures for removal of sharp foreign bodies in the oropharynx, repair of lacerated trachea and treatment of cancer of lips can be found in historical notes. In conclusion, from its primitive roots, TCM has developed into a distinct branch of health care system in China today that works alongside Western medicine.

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2009 Sep;266(9):1353-9. Epub 2009 Jul 14. Yap L, Pothula VB, Warner J, Akhtar S, Yates E. Royal Albert Edward Infirmary, Wigan, UK. leesien@tiscali.co.uk

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